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Fox News reporter was labeled a 'co-conspirator' to justify DOJ email probe (update)

Fox News reporter was labeled a 'co-conspirator' to justify DOJ email probe (update)


DOJ obtained two days of a journalist's email content in a 2009 leaks case

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department of justice

Just one week after the US Department of Justice revealed that it secretly seized the telephone records of AP journalists, new details have emerged regarding another case of a reporter ensnared in the department's leak investigations.

The Washington Post reports that the Justice Department had tracked the movements of Fox News correspondent James Rosen and Washington advisor Stephen Jin-Woo using security badge access records from the State Department's headquarters in 2009. The investigation pertained to the possible leak of a CIA analysis on North Korean nuclear tests, and led to Woo being indicted under the Espionage Act. But according to an affidavit, the Justice Department also obtained a search warrant to access two days of Rosen's private email content — a step further than the AP probe, which seized the phone records and metadata of up to 100 journalists.

DOJ argued that the reporter could be considered a "co-conspirator" for his involvement

According to the affidavit, the FBI and the Justice Department also argued that due to the nature of Rosen's arrangement with Woo — which involved a plan for passing along information using code words — the reporter could be charged with breaking the law, "at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" for his involvement. That procedure was then used to justify the search warrant which allowed the DOJ to access the contents of Rosen's Gmail account.

Currently, the Obama administration has prosecuted more leaks cases under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Testifying last week before the House Judiciary Committee, US Attorney General Eric Holder stated his support for a new "media shield law" to protect journalists who publish leaked information. When asked whether he believes leak investigations should target journalists, Holder responded that their purpose was to focus on those leaking information, not those reporting it. But the statements seem to run counter to the government's characterization of Rosen — as well as its sealed indictment against Wikileaks boss Julian Assange for his role in publishing secret US diplomatic cables provided by PFC Bradley Manning.

Update: Further investigation has revealed that in addition to James Rosen, the Justice Department also seized the records of up to five additional phone numbers associated with Fox News, as well as two numbers belonging to White House staffers. A partially-redacted list uncovered by Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker shows that over 30 phone numbers had their records seized in total, including Rosen's work and cell phone numbers. A spokesperson for Ronald C. Machen, Jr., the US Attorney leading the investigation, told The New Yorker that he "can’t confirm the owner or subscriber for any of those records,” as they are currently sealed.

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